The story of Halloween

Once upon a time there was a family who moved across the world to a strange new land with strange new holidays. It was fun and exciting. The best one was coming up, and it wasn’t even an actual holiday, just a day of dressing up and stuffing your face with lollies. Just thinking about it made the kids insane with anticipation.

Costumes were chosen. Pumpkins were carved. The day was fast approaching. The mother got a cold and a vaguely scary croaky Halloween-esque voice to go with it. And then – the night before Halloween – the little girl woke up with a fever and a bad cough. Sad faces all round.

Luckily, the parents were unstoppable and in one daring yet smoothly-executed swoop, they broke the bad news (No trick or treating. In the rain, hmm) and presented the alternative of dressing up and treasure hunting for lollies in the house. Yay! In amongst the candy and fever reducing medicine, we even had some friends drop by for candy exchange and mutual costume appreciation.

And Halloween was saved. And there are awesome pictures to prove it. 🙂


Puyallup State Fair

“If you see a guy who looks like a cowboy, he’s the real deal.”

This from our good friend, who invited us to the State Fair with her family, in the town of Puyallup, 45-60 mins drive south of Seattle.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, because we haven’t seen much of Washington yet, and Seattle itself doesn’t exactly give a strong cowboy vibe.

The Puyallup fair attracts more than 1 million people each year, and is the largest fair in Washington. From the sheer size of the fairground and the number of people there, we got the impression it is a huge deal for local business and agriculture. It attracts everyone – young and old, families, and cowboys who look and act the part as they make their way to compete in the rodeo. But more on that soon!

With five kids in tow, there was no way we could explore the whole fair, but we did manage some games, delightful scones with strawberry jam, and a ferris wheel ride.

Look at the view!

And the happy faces 🙂

We saw some cows, and I think we were rather more impressed with them than they were with us.

And there was a bit of camel riding. As you do.

We didn’t make it to see the crafts, but we did buy tickets to the rodeo. And Holy Awesome, it was awesome.

This is the arena.

The atmosphere was exciting – the loud music, the announcer (and his awesome accent), the rodeo clown. It is a true spectacle. And we haven’t even got down to the wranglin’ yet! Contestants (the cowboys, I’m talking about here) come from all over the country to compete.

Here’s the clown – silly, cheesy, and funny. (And brave!)

And here’s the breakdown of what we saw. It was all new to me.

1. Calf roping/wrangling: Cowboy on horse chases calf, jumps off horse, grabs calf, ties up its legs. In the blink of an eye. (And yes, I did feel sorry or the calf, but it seemed ok after, just scampering off after it had been untied)

2. Saddle/Bareback bronc: Cowboy holds onto horse and attempts to stay on as it bucks and tries to get him off its back.

3. Bull riding: The BIG event. A huge, ginormous, beastly big bull, with a crazy cowboy on its back, attempting to stay on. It was AMAZING. Scary but amazing.

4. Mutton busting: Ok, so this was insane, but also funny. A kid aged 4-7 (wearing a helmet and some padding, in case you’re worried) sits atop a sheep. The sheep runs, the kid holds on for dear life. The kid falls off (and is unharmed) the sheep keeps on running. The kid gets up and the crowd cheers like crazy. No way on earth would I ever let my kid do that. But I guess if your dad’s a cowboy, that’s just how it’s done.

In this pic, the kid is already off the sheep. It’s a fairly short ride.

And that was our visit to the state fair – exciting and slightly crazy, but so much fun!

Happy 4th!

I’m ending my unexpected blogging hiatus with a Happy 4th of July!

We had been looking forward to our first one here in Seattle, since everyone has been telling us how busy and buzzing it is. Also, it’s the official ‘beginning’ of Summer in Seattle (which is, just quietly, another clue to the state of the weather here!)

It didn’t disappoint. On the evening of the 3rd, the giant (and we hoped firework-laden) barge pulled out into the centre of the lake, clearly ‘glimpsable’ from our living room. Cue insane excitement from the kids. (You can imagine how long it really seems for the fireworks to start, when you start waiting a full 24 hours before!)

And then the 4th dawned with blue skies and perfect sunshine. We walked up to beautiful Queen Anne where houses were decorated with flags, and the house-proud QA locals were out tending their beautiful and perfectly manicured gardens. We met some friends for a lovely, chilled play at a nearby park and took some photos.

After a late afternoon nap (mostly for Evan, although I may or may not have have fallen asleep on the couch. I admit nothing) we had dinner and then walked down to South Lake Union, where families were doing the usual picnic blanket/snacks/games/waiting around thing you do before watching fireworks. It was really nice to just be able to walk down and stroll around, just hanging out. At this point, we felt SO lucky and grateful to be living so close! There was a band, food, flags, and painted faces, and just a generally festive and very patriotic feeling. Much more so than you get on Australia Day – at least without a sense of irony or sarcasm.

The fireworks start at 10pm, which is so late, but necessary since it’s actually not dark until then! We decided to head home to throw the kids into a bath before the show, for a speedier be-awed-by-fireworks-and-then-shove-them-into-bed-as-quickly-as-possible process.

Our landlord knocked on the back door at this point and invited us to join the rest of his tenants on the rooftop of his apartment building (just behind our place.) YAY! We joined them for a bit of small talk and waiting.

And then it was all: “Wow! Look! Wow! A red one! A green one! A star! Wow!” and various other exclamations. Evan didn’t stop talking from the start of the show to the finish. “I’m not scared!” “This is fun!” and similar.

Once the show was over, it was all: yawn yawn yawn – but that was all of us. 🙂

Here are some pics from the day.

People arriving at Gas Works Park

The fireworks barge

Happy 4th, Space Needle!

People at South Lake Union

Ready to go!

photo blog: Spring down to the bus stop

Let’s be serious: not everything in any city – even a pretty one – can look nice all the time. Seattle has sketchy parts and dirty parts. It’s resolutely grey and gloomy when it wants to be.

But today was so lovely that, even on a mundane walk down to meet the school bus, everything looked absolutely beautiful. I  grabbed the camera on the way out (mostly to take photos of kidlets for Mum) and snapped a few random pics. It was a clear, golden, sunny day. Breezy, but not too cold. I’m kind of amazed at how clear and gorgeous all these little things looked.

But first: Evan! Looking intrepid in his new dinosaur jacket as we set out. It’s actually a rain jacket, but I put it on him b/c the breeze was cool. As it turned out, I ended up carrying it home.

This is the street we walk down to get to the bus stop: Dexter Ave N. As you can see, it’s nothing special. That’s the city you can see, it’s about a 10 min bus ride.

Dexter is on a hill, so you get a few windows of view as you walk down. This is part of Lake Union and the buildings on the other side.

And this is similar, but coming home:

Now we get to the colourful bit. These red bushes are everywhere, and they’re vibrant. I love them with the blue sky (Actually, anything with a blue sky works well for me!)

There goes Evan down the footpath. Another of those red bushes, peeping out. And all the green is nice too.

Now, any gardeners reading can tell me what these awesome trees are. I just call them “awesome trees on the way home.”

And finally, because I couldn’t help myself, beautiful spring flowers in the gardens along the way.

And this rosemary is from the hedge outside our house. Lucky us!

I didn’t get a pic today of the iconic yellow school bus, but I’ll try and snap one soon, as it is so cute.

Hope you enjoyed our walk! It certainly lifted my spirits.

On Not Having a Car

Hi! Already I’m lagging behind with the blog posts! It’s been a busy time.

In the last few weeks, we have been lucky enough to meet some friendly, genuine, interesting people, mostly through school functions or mutual acquaintances. I feel very lucky to be making friends and feeling more connected. With each new acquaintance, we learn a bit about them, and we share our moving-across-the-world story. Among other things, we talk about how we’ve been exploring the city and getting around with the kids. The fact that we are living without a car comes to light.

The range of responses we get has been interesting. The single and/or childless people seem congratulatory, and can relate to varying degrees, since they are currently or have recently lived without a car. We talk about the bus system, and how it’s pretty good here.

Our fellow mums and dads, however, are fascinated, incredulous, or amused. We are a bit quaint, I think. Kids and no car! Imagine that. It won’t last. But they are supportive and helpful, even if they can’t imagine doing something so impractical.

And it may not last. We certainly have not ruled out getting a car, but I have no immediate aspirations. It’s not the driving that I mind. It would be lovely to go to Safeway and just put the groceries in the boot. It would be great to just dash up and down Queen Anne Hill to drop Joy and pick her up from school. And I won’t lie – it’s an absolute pain to wait at a bus stop in the pouring rain.

It’s just that there are also some perks to not having a car. Not having to sit in traffic is one. I don’t miss that! Not having to find parking is also a small joy.

And there are two other points which kind of warm my heart. The first is that we are really getting to know our little corner of Seattle because we are negotiating our way around on the buses. (I’m getting to recognise the bus drivers too!) We have time to look out the window and admire the view, and because have to plan our route, often we actually know a bit about where we’re going! It is true that we’d probably go on trips much further afield if we drove because it would be so much easier and direct, but I figure there’s time for that. If we have to go somewhere in the evening with the kids, like recently to Joy’s school concert, we take a cab. This happens fairly infrequently though.

Also, we walk! We actually exercise every day and we’re not even trying. Each morning after we walk down to the school bus stop and put Joy on, Evan and I walk along the bike trail next to the lake, pick up flowers, stones, and leaves, look at the view, and loop around back to our house. We often see and chat to the same dogs and owners out in the morning, and there’s a post man who once stopped me to ask about Evan’s bike. He waves now every time he sees us.

It’s fun and it gets us moving. Both of the kids have accepted walking to get to the shops or park as a normal part of our lifestyle and I think it’s benefitting us all. It’s different to what we are used to. (Largely probably because we never exercised enough before. But anyway.)

So we are doing stuff and meeting people, which also helps with our homesickness. We have all sort of entered a refreshed stage of missing home, both for family and friends, and also for our favourite and familiar places. Being out and about and meeting people does help. And hey, I didn’t even get to tell you about my Spanish class (which I know you’re all dying to hear about) or how it was sunny and 21 c today. Amazing!! I will get to that next time. xx